The Freelance Creative

5 Tips For Freelancers Working With a Designer


When I started out as a copywriter, I rarely worked with a designer. I would get a topic for a blog post, do some quick research, churn out 800-1000 words, upload it to a client’s website, and move on to the next topic. The words themselves were the primary focus, and aside from worrying about sentence and paragraph length, I didn’t put too much thought into what they actually looked like on the page.

When I first got the chance to work with a designer on a website, I eagerly crafted what I thought was the perfect copy for the client’s audience. Only after the designer took that copy and plugged it into a webpage did I realize my mistake.

“If I’d have known it was going to look like that,” I thought, “I would have done something different!”

That’s when I realized that working with a designer is all about communication.

Working with a designer

As a freelancer, you don’t always get the opportunity to work with the person who will incorporate your writing into a larger piece of content. In these instances, you may have little more to go on than a few instructions and your experience working with different types of content.

If you’re lucky, however, your client may connect you with the designer. Whether that designer works for an internal team or is a freelancer themselves, collaborating with them allows you to be more involved with the entire content creation process. When a copywriter and a designer can communicate and work well together, the final product is almost always better.

5 tips for working with a designer

Working with a designer is a bit different from working with another writer, so even if you’re used to collaborating with content editors or marketing strategists on projects, it’s worth keeping a few things in mind before you get started.

1. Understand the assignment

This one might sound a bit obvious because it’s something you should be asking before you start any assignment. However, when you know a designer is going to incorporate your copy into another format, it’s important to ask a couple of questions before getting started.

First, what medium are you writing for? Drafting copy for a text-heavy eBook, for example, is very different from writing content for an infographic or even a webpage. Make sure to do your research. If the client asks you to write a case study, look at examples of their existing case studies for guidance instead of guessing what the final product will look like and making life difficult for the designer.

You should also have a clear idea of who your audience will be. This will matter from a design standpoint because the tone and style of your copy can greatly impact the decisions a designer makes.

2. Know the limitations

For a designer, physical space is everything. Whether they’re designing a digital banner ad or a trade show booth, designers need to be aware of available dimensions at all times. All that copy you spent so much time thinking about is just one of many design elements they have to incorporate into a greater whole.

If you’re fortunate enough to talk to a designer before you start writing, be sure to ask them how much space you have to work with. They’ll most likely respond with a measurement, especially if it’s a digital ad. Unless you’ve worked extensively in that format, though, the measurement will probably mean nothing to you.

But that’s okay! You can still find a common language for negotiating space limitations. Writers are accustomed to thinking about word count, but that doesn’t matter much to a designer since word length is so varied. Character count is often the best compromise because it’s relatively standard. When in doubt about how much space you have to work with, ask the designer about how many characters they need or can accommodate.

3. Provide some structure

As a copywriter, it’s your job to convey ideas. You’re probably already thinking in terms of content structure, flow, and messaging hierarchy as you’re drafting copy. However, things that appear obvious to you may not be evident to someone unfamiliar with the content if you don’t provide some context clues.

Before handing a document over to a designer, you should make sure that you’re formatting your content with design in mind. That means making it crystal clear which lines are headers (complete with H1, H2, and H3 hierarchies), which elements are CTAs, and where breaks between distinct sections should be located.

As a general rule, try to make life easier for the designer whenever possible. Your content should be presented so that someone who has never looked at it before will understand where everything goes in terms of hierarchy and flow. When things are unclear, add comments in the document with further explanation.

Think of your document as a conversation with the designer. The more information you’re giving them to work with, the more they’re going to be able to engage with your concepts and elaborate upon them.

4. Don’t be precious

Chances are good that once the designer starts plugging your copy into the designed content, something will have to give. Maybe one section is just a bit too long, or there’s a little too much content to fit on a single page. If some of your copy needs to be changed or removed to make the design work, don’t be precious about the edits. It’s okay to push back if those changes would impact the core message of the content, but even then, the conversation should be about how to adjust the copy to fit the design while preserving the message.

You should also be sure that the designer knows they can reach out to you at any time with questions about content. I’ve had several experiences where a poor designer wasted a ton of time and effort trying to incorporate copy into a design that I would have told them to simply cut out if they’d asked me about it first.

5. Offer support

Designers have a hard job. They’re tasked with taking a document of text and translating it into something visually appealing and engaging. Don’t make life more difficult for them by being unavailable or unwilling to provide assistance.

If a designer has questions about what you envisioned for a section of content, tell them. If they need you to rewrite something to flow better within the design, do it. If they want you to QA or proofread their final version, thank them for the opportunity to help out.

You’re on the same team

When you’re collaborating with a designer, your role in content creation doesn’t have to end the moment you hand over your copy. By opening lines of communication early and building a good working relationship, you can ensure that the final product delivers the best possible results for your client.

Always keep in mind that the designer you’re working with is trying to deliver the best work possible. You’re both on the same team, so don’t be afraid to make a few sacrifices or put in a little extra effort to get better results!

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